The World Ends With You -Final Remix- Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: October 12th 2018
Price as of Article: $49.99 USD, £39.99 GBP
Game code provided by Nintendo for review
The World Ends With You started life on the Nintendo DS all the way back in 2007, co-developed between Square Enix and Jupiter. The reception was great, and though it never achieved the same status as its developer’s other titles like Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts, it quickly gained a cult following for its unique style, interesting characters, deep thought provoking story that tackles a lot of relatable issues like misunderstandings and mistrust, and its just overall surreal feel. It is one of those games where you just look at the cover, and know you got something special.
Not counting the 2012 port for mobile devices by h.a.n.d., we fast forward to 2018, where the game has now been fully remastered for the big screen, under the title The World Ends With You -Final Remix-, adding a brand new scenario to further the story, two player co-op, and joy-con motion control just to name a few things.
So, how does this cult classic hold up in todays day and age? Is it still hip with the cool kidz, or is it hopelessly out of trend?
Outta my face!
You’re blocking my view!
Just go the hell away!!!
All the world needs is me…
I don’t get people… never have… never will…
With these words of anguish, does our story begin. Neku, a peculiar youth who has seemingly blocked out the whole world and shut himself out of society itself, finds himself in the middle of the Shibuya shopping district of Tokyo, where he suddenly colapses and wakes up in the middle of the street with a strange skull shaped pin or badge in his hand. He is soon attacked by strange creatures and calls out for help, but when no one seemingly sees or even hears him, he runs away for safety. Best as he thinks he is safe, the creatures have followed him and continue their onslaught on the defenceless Neku, until a young girl comes to his aid and helps him fight off the creatures.
The girl cheerfully introduces herself as Shiki, very reluctantly gets the introverted Neku to reveal his name, and then convinced him to form a pact with her, saying that teaming up is their only hope of surviving the monsters, called Noise. She then tells him that they are both Players in the Reapers’ Game, a game that lasts 7 days, with one mission being dealt per day with a strict time limit, appearing on the back of their hands as some sort of magic tattoo, and that failing to complete the mission will result in their erasure.
They soon meet up with two other Players, the bashful Beat and his partner, the adorably optimistic Rhyme. Beat initially jumps the gun and mistakes the two for Reapers, but Rhyme calms him down and suggests they should all four work together. They explain that the Reapers are the ones who run the show, and are the only ones who can see them, except for other Players and the Noise. In other words, our four friends have seemingly entered another plane of existence in this so called game, a realm where they can hear peoples thoughts, and use that to help them in their daily troubles, along with fighting the Noise of course.
Neku still wants nothing to do with any of it though, stubbornly exclaiming that he doesn’t need anyone but himself, and continues to push everyone around him away, promting Beat and Rhyme to leave the scene, leaving Shiki alone with him. From there on, we just follow Neku and Shiki from day to day as they go about beating up Noise and solving their daily missions in hopes of beating the Reapers’ Game and returning to the real world, all while Shiki continuosly, little by little, tries to break through Neku’s hard skin and make him open up to her.
I won’t go anymore into the plot than that, both to avoid spoilers, but also because we would be here all day. This is a Square Enix action-RPG we are talking about afterall, and is as such by all intents and purposes very story heavy, with twists and turns around every corner, and about 80% of the gameplay consisting of dialogue with static character images. But for all those of you wondering, yes, Neku does eventually come around and become a decent human being. I am guessing, after writing Sora from Kingdom Hearts, the developers wanted to experiment with a character of the opposite traits, and Neku, by all stretches of the imagination, starts off as a complete anti Sora. But I guess that makes his character development all the more interesting. Learning the values of friendship, and learning to trust other people.
About halfway through the game, Neku also joins forces with the mysterious Joshua, who seemingly knows way more than he lets on.
If I can come with one tiny criticism on how the story is otherwise presented, it is that characters will sometimes trigger flashbacks, and unlike most other games where these would either be presented in black and white or at least have the colours toned down a bit to indicate the change in time, flashback scenes in The World Ends With You are treated like they are told in the present, which sometimes confused me a bit from a narrative standpoint.
Since the game originated on the Nintendo DS, thus having heavy emphasis on the stylus, the game doesn’t support the Pro Controller. Instead, much like The Room that I recently review, the game starts out asking if you want to control the game with a single Joy-Con, or if you want to utilize the Switch’s touch screen controls. Alas, when you are not having long conversations, sometimes swearing the game could be a visual novel, you control Neku, either manually with the analogue stick, by having him follow the on-screen pointer while you hold the B button, or by tapping your finger where you want him to go. You then navigate the confined streets of Shibuya, talking to NPCs, solving their problems as part of your mission, and battling Noise.
By touching the Player pin in the bottom right corner, or by pushing the Y button, you enter focus mode where monsters become visible to you in the form of red skull shaped icons, that actually reminded me alot of the difficulty selection in Doom, and how fitting a comparison as also in this game the bigger and more frightening the icon, the more vicious enemies lie in wait. Fret not however, as Noise will never attack you on their own, nu-uhh, no random battles here, in order to enter combat, you have to actively touch an icon, after which you are then transported to a battle field where it is a real time free for all.
I guess I should touch on these real quick. Your attacks in The World Ends With You, are represented by pins, or badges if you will, each having its own unique ability that you can level up for greater effect, with some badges even being able to evolve later down the line. Ranging from fire attacks, ice, electricity and every imaginable thing inbetween.
Without pins, you are defenceless. They are not one time consumables though, once a pin has been used up, it will recharge for later use, with recharge times varying from pin to pin. Each pin also has a specific method of activation, harkening back to the game’s Nintendo DS days, with some effects being triggered by you holding down the A button and dragging the cursor along the ground, some by directly swiping or tapping the enemy while repeatedly pressing A etc.
Also, holding B allows you to run all across the battlefield, while pushing the button on a spot far away from you allows you do dash out of danger.
I myself used the Joy-Con motion controls, so I can’t speak for the touch controls, but I found the combat response of the motion controls to be a bit finicky at times, resulting in me just spamming the attack button when in combat while continuously swiping and tapping the enemy until I won. Which actually reflects how I play Kingdom Hearts as well; spam the attack button till I win, while occassionally dodging.
You start out with a standard fire attack and only two slots for one additional pin, but as you progress through the game you quickly only more slots and pins, either through story progression or enemy encounters.
What’s the Trend?
Each area of Shibuya has a trend chart, informing you of what types of pins are trendy at a given time in a given area. Taking a trendy pin with you into battle will enhance its damage, while a non-trendy pin will have its damage cut in half. Personally though, I can’t be bothered to go into the pin menu to swap my pins in correspondance with the latest trend, so I just keep using my ”attack till you win” strategy, and then just deal with eventual power cuts.
I am not saying this to be lazy, but maybe they could have made pin swapping a more intuitive mechanic? Like having access to a quick menu, or being able to swap pins while in battle?
I dunno, all I know is that I found a set of favorites early on, some close combat attacks mixed with ranged ones, and throughout most of the game, with little variation, those were what I stuck with.
Living on the Edge!
Reminding me a bit of the Matrix system in Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, you can choose to tackle the enemies head on at your current max level, or you can live dangerously by using a slider in the menu to decrease your level. This of course puts you at a disadvantage in battle, but the reward upon victory is higher. Especially if you take on more than one wave of enemies at once, which is a gameplay element that gets unlocked a bit into the game.
When tapping one enemy icon, you a given a few seconds to tap other enemy icons in the area, in order to fight multiple waves of enemies. Winning a so called chain battle of course nets you mre experience and rewards, than if you were just tackling the enemies one by one.
It should also be mentioned that you health completely refills every time you go back to the hub world, but not inbetween chain battles.
Something I found a little odd, is that the game initially doesn’t ask you what difficulty you want. Initially, only Normal is available by default, with Easy and then Hard later being unlocked via story progression. The difficulty can then be changed on the fly throughout the game as you see fit. But some passive Reapers, when giving out a mission, will inform you that the mission can only be cleared if the conditions are met while playing on a specific difficulty.
I Got Your Back!
For every successful hit you land on an enemy, your partner’s Link icon fills in the top right of the screen. When it reaches 100.00% you can tap it, pulling you into a mini-game of sorts, where you have the chance to power up the attack for greater effect.
What’s on Your Mind?
Engaging in combat is not the only thing you can do while in focus mode though, you can also read certain people’s thoughts. A small box with a specific topic as to what is on their mind will appear over their head, and you can then tap this to open of a larger bubble of dialogue. Most of the time this is just flavor text, but sometimes you do need to mindread certain people in order to get on with the story. Some people are influenced by the Noise, indicated by orange enemy icons, and you then have to defeat those in order to snap the person out of it.
The Lastest Meme!
Sometimes the people who are part of your mission, need a little push, and this push comes in the form of memes. As stated before, you exist in another plane of reality, so you cannot directly walk up to them and ask what is wrong, what you CAN do though, is imprinting them with certain ideas that help them get their mind on track. If a person is imprintable, an icon will appear on them if you ”talk” to them, and you are then able to select from a list of currently available memes.
The game tells you that experimenting with different memes on people, will have all sorts of different outsomes, and thus encourages you to do so, but I often found that there was only one correct solution, and picking the wrong one would simply kick you out of the conversation to try again.
So called passive Reapers sometimes block your path, and will only let you through if you meet various conditions, ranging from beating a certain amount of Noise within a given area, to presenting a certain pin, or answering a quiz. Once the conditions are met, not only will you be granted passage, but you will also often be rewarded with special currency pins that can be traded in for cash. These pins can also be obtained by battling. Being a shopping district, known as being the hot spot for fashion and all the newest trends, Shibuya is booming with a variety of different stores for you to spend your hard earned cash on. Everything from clothes, to food and new pins, all things that help you up your performance in battle, and being a good costumer will even strengthen your relationship with the store clerk, who will then give your addition information about certain items.
Some items can also not be obtained with cash, but needs to be exchanged for certain materials you find on your quest. These are aptly named ”quest items”.
No Time like the Present
Another thing I will note, is the aforementioned time limit our characters get upon each mission start. Yeah… it is completely inconsequential. While storywise they make a big deal about completing the mission before times runs out, gameplaywise it never does, the timer is purely a story element, so you can take your sweet time grinding Noise, shopping, or whatever else you wanna do.
I am a bit ambivalent on this. On one hand (no pun intended), I hate time limits in my games, because it stresses me out and I just want to play the game at my own leisure, which is why I have only ever beaten The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask once, and why I am hesitant to beat Pandora’s Tower. So I am glad that I can just take my time with The World Ends With You. On the other hand, it left me a bit disappointed BECAUSE they make such a big deal out of it in the story, and I think it could have lead to some very interested gameplay that you had to carefully plan your day ahead. Do I save on time and go straight for the mission, or do I press for time and grind experience so I will stand better against the challenges up ahead? Risk versus reward, that sorta spiel. And on that note, I wish each day had more optional missions, that would reward you with special exclusive items, as this would also have you conflicted on whether or not to risk spending your precious time. Actually, the game is almost too linear now that I think about it, at least during the main story.
There is a timer on your cell phone, but that only shows you the real world time, nothing to pay any attention unless you left your own phone in the other room.
Speaking of real time, the game has this funny mechanic, where you will accumulate PP to level up your pins, equal to the amount of days you have been away from the game, with 7 days of absense being the max. Also, regarding the combat beneficial food items I mentioned before, on a daily basis you can only digest a certain amount of food after which you have to wait for the date to change in the real world.
Gotta See ‘Em All
In an RPG it should go without saying, but you also have a beastiary, where you keep track of all the different kinds of monsters you have encountered, and one thing I always do enjoy in these games, is continuously seeing all kinds of new monsters as I progress. Seeing this list grow, kinda pulls you back into the good ol’ days of collecting Pokémon cards. In The World Ends With You, these are not just all colourswaps of each other to indicate that a foe is tougher than the ones you faced before of the same kind. While there are some of these, there are also a genuinely healthy dose of clever original monster designs, most of them being regular animals like frogs, birds, kangaroos etc. that have all gotten the ”Noise treatment” to make them look more imposing.
At one point, I encountered a peculiar looking blue enemy icon I had never seen before, that had me engage in a battle with a seemingly harmless fox with multiple tails (raise your hand if that one sounds familiar). I thought something was off, if the alternate enemy icon wasn’t a dead giveaway, and this notion not only grew stronger as the creature kept teleporting all over the battlefield and transformed into other enemy types, but as its health decreased, it suddenly turned into this Final Fantasy style god-like final boss creature that annihilated me with a giant energyball attack. Auww, gonna feel that one in the morning…
Teamwork makes the Dream Work
New to the Final Remix, as mentioned before, is co-op mode. At any time in the hub, you can go into the menu and select Co-op, where a second player can then control Neku’s partner by using the second Joy-Con. Personally I think the AI is doing just fine on its own, but if you got a friend or sibling by your side who wants in on the action, they can join too.
Reflecting on the game’s distinctive artstyle, the music is a mix of hip-hop, rock, and pop. I am personally not a big fan of the former, leaning more towards the softer tones of the latter, but I ultimately found the overall soundtrack to be very fitting of the game’s themes.
I could have done with some voice acting though. As mentioned before, a large portion of the game consists purely of character interactions, static portraits with dialogue. The opening monologue by Neku is fully voiced, so why isn’t the rest of the game? It could have at least been an option.
Taking its que from hip-hop culture, everything from the backgrounds to the names that appear briefly when you enter an area, and of course Tetsuya Nomura’s distinct artstyle, has a certain ”fresh” look and vibe to it. It kinda reminds me of the street culture in Splatoon in that regard to be honest. And to top it all off, certain characters even speak with heavy slang accents (looking at you, Beat)… so no, those are not typos, that’s just how they talk to make the experience and atmosphere more authentic.
The graphics are colourful and the whole area of Shibuya has this exaggerated bent look to it, to make it feel like a living comic book, which is funny since the cutscenes, of the few there are, are presented in a comic-like panel style, and animations in these are also purposefully very limited.
I will say though that this graphic style also sometimes makes the areas look messy and disorientating. You do have a map in the phone menu, but I often just found myself running around till a cutscene happened. I mean there is no time limit anyway?
The game runs smoothly both in docked and tabletop mode, and although I often had to reset the pointer, the motion controls work great as well, baring the few combat issues I had. Funny to think that a decade ago we needed a sensor bar on the top of our TV for what the Switch can now do naturally, oh how technology has advanced.
At $49.99/£39.99 especially for a digital game, I think the price is very steep for a re-release, even if it is a remaster with newly added content. Giana Sisters: Owltimate Edition was another re-release we covered that also added a bunch of new things to warrant its price tag, but even it only asked for a generous $24.99. I get that one is indie and the other is AAA, and that The World Ends With You has post game content that can easily surpass the 100 hour mark if you want to get everything, but for a re-release of a 10 year old Nintendo DS game, I just can’t justify the pricetag.
Much like a pair of jeans, it is clear that the price of this game comes down to the brand, it is made by Square and published by Nintendo afterall, plus the fact that it has the famous Tetsuya Nomura written all over it, and are you a fan of him and his work, you will most likely get the game anyway.
Still, if you are willing to shell out your hard earned cash to check out this peculiar hidden gem, you will most certainly get your moneys worth. I may not agree with the price, but the production value and polish is definitely here. The World Ends With You is by all means a niche title, it’s not for everyone and not everyone will get its appeal, but it definitely has an audience and I am glad that games like that still get a chance to shine.
The World Ends With You, if you want to enjoy life, expand your world
Hours of content
Too much static dialogue
No voice acting
Motion controls in combat feel a bit unintuitive